First Look: Production Pictures: The Unknown Island

Balletboyz present four new pieces

BalletBoyz presents Fourteen Days
BalletBoyz presents Fourteen Days

BalletBoyz presents Fourteen Days

The International Emmy Award-winning, all-male dance company BalletBoyz are set to return to London’s Sadler’s Wells this autumn for the world premiere of their new show Fourteen Days before embarking on tour across the UK. The new work from the recent Rose d’Or winners has been created by four internationally celebrated choreographers, alongside four eminent and completely different composers, the new work comprises of four short pieces, and will run alongside their previously acclaimed Fallen. A coproduction with Sadler’s Wells where BalletBoyz are an Associate Artist, and in association with artsdepot, Fourteen Days runs from 10th – 14th October at Sadler’s Wells with an Opening Night on Tuesday 10th October.

Choreographers Javier De Frutos (London Road), Craig Revel Horwood (West Side Story,  Sunset Boulevard), Iván Pérez (Young Men) and Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) have teamed up with composers Scott Walker, Charlotte Harding, Joby Talbot and Keaton Henson, with each pair given just fourteen days to work with the ensemble to create the new pieces. Playing with the concept of balance and imbalance, the result is an exciting and varied programme of dance and music in BalletBoyz’s inimitable style, performed live musicians.

Fallen forms the second half of the evening, choreographed by regular BalletBoyz collaborator and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Russell Maliphant (Broken Fall), and set to a powerful score by French film composer Armand AmarFallen won the award for Best Modern Choreography at the 2013 National Dance Awards.

Javier De Frutos was born in Caracas and trained at London School of Contemporary Dance and the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York. As director, choreographer and designer, his international creations and collaborations have encompassed a variety of different disciplines and scales. He is one of only three artists in the history of the Olivier Awards to have received nominations in all dance categories. In 2000 Javier became one of the first recipients of an Arts Council Fellowship, through which he studied the works of Tennessee Williams. He recently won the Chita Rivera Award for his choreography of the film London Road. Javier has previously worked with BalletBoyz when he choreographed ‘Fiction’ for Life.

Craig Revel Horwood is Australian-British dancer, choreographer and theatre director. Having performed across Europe as a singer, dancer and actor, he is most famous for his judging role on Strictly Come Dancing. Craig has also choreographed and directed many shows in the West End including West Side Story and Sunset Boulevard, and has worked with BalletBoyz Artistic Directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt in the past.

Iván Pérez is a Spanish choreographer based in the Netherlands. Iván has formerly danced with Netherlands Dance Theater (NDT) and IT Dansa, and received his degree in Performing Arts from the University Rey Juan Carlos. He won the award for ‘Best Interpretation’ during the ‘International Choreography Competition’ New York-Burgos and was nominated for the ‘Swan Best Dancer’ for his role in Indigo Rose by Jiří Kylián (2006). Previously he has worked with BalletBoyz choreographing Young Men.

Christopher Wheeldon is a British choreographer who trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Company between 1991 and 1993. In 2007 Christopher founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and became the first British choreographer to create a new work for the Bolshoi Ballet. His awards include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American in Paris, and he was made an OBE in 2016. Christopher has worked with BalletBoyz on numerous occasions in the past, including Mesmerics.

Russell Maliphant is a British choreographer who trained at the Royal Ballet School and graduated into Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet before leaving to pursue a career in independent dance. In April 2000, he received an Arts Council Fellowship. In 2003, Russell created Broken Fall with Sylvie Guillem and George Piper Dances (now BalletBoyz). Broken Fallpremiered at the Royal Opera House in December 2003 and was awarded an Olivier Award. Rise and Fall – an evening of work at Sadler’s Wells including Broken Fall – was awarded a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Choreography (Modern) in 2006.

Scott Walker is an American-born British singer-songwriter, composer and record producer. He is noted for his distinctive baritone voice and for the unorthodox career path that has taken him from 1960s pop icon to 21st-century avant-garde musician. Walker’s success has largely been in the United Kingdom, where his first three solo albums reached the top ten. Walker has lived in the UK since 1965; he became a British citizen in 1970.

Charlotte Harding graduated from the Royal College of Music, London with a first class honours degree. On graduating Charlotte won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother Rosebowl, presented by HRH Prince Charles. Charlotte is passionate about the role music can play in both health and education. She is currently an accompanist with BalletBoyz, working for the Parkinson’s CAN Dance classes. Charlotte has also been involved in leading and assisting educational workshops for BBC Symphony Orchestra and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Joby Talbot was born in Wimbledon, and studied composition at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. Talbot’s diverse output has included a 60-minute a cappella choral journey along the Camino de Santiago for Nigel Short’s Tenebrae (Path of Miracles, 2005) and a co-production between The Royal Ballet and National Ballet of Canada, Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2011). Talbot also has considerable experience writing for the screen, including The League of Gentlemen and the feature film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005). His latest film score is for Sing, the latest animation from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Minions) and writer-director Garth Jennings, released December 2016.

Keaton Henson is an English folk rock musician, visual artist and poet from London. Henson has released six studio albums. His music video for “Charon” was shortlisted for a UK MVA award in Best Budget Indie/Rock Category. “Small Hands” won Best Music Video at the Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival in 2012. In November 2012, Henson designed a t-shirt for the Yellow Bird Project to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Henson also composed the score for the multiple Award-nominated film Young Men by BalletBoyz and BBC 2.

Armand Amar is a French composer living in Paris. In 1976 he met South African choreographer Peter Goss, who introduced him to dance. In subsequent years he worked with a number of choreographers in contemporary dance. His works are focused particularly on Eastern music and he is the author of several ballets and soundtracks films.

The current BalletBoyz Company includes: Jordan Robson, Harry Price, Marc Galvez, Simone Donati, Matthew Rees, Edward Pearce, Matthew Sandiford, Flavien Esmieu, Bradley Waller and newcomers Edd Arnold andSean Flanagan

The production will tour to: Cambridge, Chester, London, Edinburgh, Dundee, Exeter, Lichfield, Guildford, Bath, Brighton and Richmond.

Tickets are now on sale.

Creative England Announce Ambitions for Second Round of Short Film Initiative SHORTFLIX in Partnership with Sky and The National Youth Theatre

Finalists of Shortflix 1: Five winning films to be screened on Sky Arts
Finalists of Shortflix 1: Five winning films to be screened on Sky Arts

Finalists of Shortflix 1: Five winning films to be screened on Sky Arts

Creative England today announced plans to continue their successful collaboration with leading young people’s theatre organisation NYT and global broadcaster Sky on the short film initiative SHORTFLIX. With applications  due to open again this autumn, the programme will open its doors to the UK’s undiscovered and ambitious filmmaking talent from diverse backgrounds with a story to tell about their community, heritage and identity, giving them the opportunity to make their first short film.

SHORTFLIX will be open for applications to young people aged 18-25 who are not currently in full-time education, employment or training, as the programme addresses the issue of equal opportunities within the creative industries. It draws on the expertise, network and experience of leading industry experts and stakeholders to take a longlist of projects selected for development from initial idea to script or outline stage, leading to five original short films being selected for production and broadcast to UK audiences.

SHORTFLIX first launched in March 2017 and the five talented winners’ unique and personal projects will be made into short films for Sky Arts with a budget of £10,000 each. These include: Dior Clarke & Blain Ho-Shing with BATTY BOY, an uncompromising look at black gay culture in London; Abena Taylor-Smith’s film LADIES DAY, a warm-hearted story about a young black woman coming out against the backdrop of an Afro-Caribbean hair-shop in Sheffield; LOSING IT by Ben Robins, a pitch black sex-comedy; NOSEBLEED by Hollie Moore, an art-house psycho-drama about a toxic female friendship; and TOGETHER, THEY SMOKE by Henry Gale, a tragi-comedy set in Bath about coping with terminal illness in surprising ways. The five stories were chosen for their intensity and authenticity, and for the filmmakers’ compelling passion to tell them. All the films are based on or inspired by the personal experience of the filmmakers.

Following an open call to talent, with ambassadors Noel Clarke (Star Trek into Darkness, Adulthood, Kidulthood), Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Four Lions, Jason Bourne) and Ellie Kendrick (Game of Thrones, The Levelling, An Education), twenty-six  participants underwent training and intensive development, gaining significant practical skills and experience. The next round of SHORTFLIX will aim to provide the same unique opportunities as young filmmakers underrepresented backgroundstake their first steps in the industry, telling stories that inspire them, affect them and in some cases, have shaped them personally.

Paul Ashton, Head of Film at Creative England, comments: “The sheer force of talent and engagement we have seen so far on SHORTFLIX has been humbling and inspiring, and has absolutely confirmed our belief that the talent is out there in unusual places, looking for the chance to realise what they know they have in them. We’re delighted to announce that we will continue this  flourishing partnership with Sky and NYT. We  strive to provide opportunities to those who otherwise may not have access to the industry, and with our partners we can’t wait to see the next wave of the unheard voices from across the UK wash over us.”

Paul Roseby, CEO and Artistic Director of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, says: “Shortflix is a game-changer for diverse young filmmakers and audiences alike. I hope this vital initiative receieves the greater support it deserves and needs to reach more talented diverse young people from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the industry.”

Philip Edgar-Jones, Director, Sky Arts, said: “We’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with the Creative England and the National Youth Theatre. Shortflix is a really important programme and a great way of giving people from diverse backgrounds the chance to tell incredible stories. We’re excited about the first winners and look forward to broadcasting them on Sky Arts, as well as celebrating more talented young people’s work with the second stage of the programme.”


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From Borders to Angel: the duo putting political drama on stage


One year after their explosive approach took Edinburgh Fringe by storm, Henry Naylor and Avital Lvova returned this year with new play Borders.  

We met a few weeks ago while Henry and Avital were in Edinburgh, and here’s what happened.

Naylor’s play, Borders, returns us to Syria, and explores how the West view conflict through lenses provided for us by Western photographers. It is story that compels its audience towards strong feeling but keeps spectators at a distance. Avital played a daring Syrian graffiti artist who risks her life to spray-paint slogans denouncing Assad.

How have audiences responded, I ask. “People reacted strongly. I think people have become desensitised by the whole refugee issue,” says writer Henry Naylor. “Apparently, there are more refugees coming across at the moment than at any time; and yet it barely makes the news. It’s very important for me to help the average person on the street connect with the story”


Henry Naylor

Borders won a Fringe First this year, which was a critical seal of approval and put more bums on seats. They both have nothing but praise and gratitude for the awards. “It’s massive! Winning a Fringe First means a lot to me,” Naylor says.

“It’s had a wide range of positive reactions. Sometimes people come out weeping – and its breath-taking to see people in complete tears,” adds actress Avital Lvova.

“The Scotsman cover so much and for them to pick your show out is humbling. Chief Critic Joyce McMillan is extraordinary. I’m amazed at how well she grasps these productions, after only a single viewing. I find Borders quite hard to describe but not her; she nailed it in just a paragraph,” Naylor says, smiling.

“Others come out in a numb state. One lady came up to me after a show the other day and said ‘I don’t know why I’m not crying – I’m so numb,’ it makes you think of where we are right now and how privileged we are,” she says.

When you are at Edinburgh Fringe preserving your mental health, and taking care of yourself is paramount; there is such a mixture of raw emotions in the air in work around topics such as race, identity, sexuality and diversity; you are often experiencing them within 30 minutes of each other. What are their tips for surviving the Fringe?  “Find a quiet place for yourself at least once a day – you’re surrounded by such opinions and people,” says Lvova. She adds. “Find some peace for yourself. Safeguard time out for yourself. I make sure I do that once a day.”

“My wife is a stand up (Sarah Kendall) and her approach is to not listen to any reviews, she knows it is going well because its selling seats,” says Naylor. “My approach has to be the opposite because I’m producing the show, so I have to know what people are saying and either fire fight or put up stars on the posters.”

In 2016 Naylor premiered the third instalment of the Arabian Nightmares, Angel, at the Gilded Balloon – the play is currently one week into its London transfer. So, what is it about? Angel is the true story of a woman in the Kurdish region of Syria who gave up her studies to become a prolific sniper,” Naylor explains. “Apparently, she shot over 100 extremists. It is said that ISIS believe if you are killed by a woman you can’t enter paradise – so they were allegedly terrified of her. Angel tells her story and Avital does it astonishingly well,” he pauses and grins. “It’s like watching a one-person action movie.”


Avital Lvova in Angel © Steve Ullathorne

“I’m incredibly happy and privileged to have been chosen to tell this story. I’m happy that I can tell someone else’s stories that are not heard enough,” adds Lvova.

Angel is at the Arcola, until 7 October. Box office: 0207 503 1646.

Almeida Theatre: Series Two of Figures of Speech launched today

Figures of Speech

The Almeida Theatre today launches the second series of Figures of Speech, its major digital film project interrogating the vitality of speech, the power of performance, and what visionary leadership sounds like.

The first instalment of series two is released today with Cush Jumbo delivering Malcolm X’s controversial 1965 speech ‘The Language of Violence’ and continues with one film released each week over the next month featuring actors Noma DumezweniJohn Heffernan, Derek Jacobi and Russell Tovey. They will perform significant speeches from politicians, activists and philosophers throughout history. The new films continue to examine what leadership means and the power of the spoken word in the 21st century with an increased focus on rhetoric that initially received a hostile reaction and remains both divisive and provocative.

 A divided politics, a divided country, a divided people.

We’ve never needed leaders more.

Figures of Speech places history’s greatest speeches centre stage through an anthology of films read by a range of actors released online, building a concert of dynamic voices and ideas from across the world as a dramatic response to social crisis.

Series one, which launched in May, featured speeches delivered by American politician Harvey Milk spoken by Ian McKellen; Nelson Mandela spoken by Lucian Msamati; Virginia Woolf spoken by Fiona Shaw; AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser spoken by Nicola Walker; and Labour Party Politician Neil Kinnock spoken by Ashley Walters.

Figures of Speech is available for free via a dedicated mini-site: speech.almeida.co.uk

Alongside a growing anthology of films, the microsite features additional material exploring the speeches, the context within which they were first delivered and the choice to revive them in 2017. The site features guest-authored articles and filmed reactions from each performer alongside an audience of people from local communities who have direct connections to the themes explored. To complement the films, inspiring young leaders aged 15 – 25 from across London have been invited to respond with a speech of their own, crafted through an Almeida Participation programme, inviting previously unheard voices to share the platform.

Series one of Figures Of Speech has so far received a combined total of 140,000 views, from both clips on the Almeida’s social media channels and the full-length films on YouTube. Ian McKellen’s reading of Harvey Milk’s ‘Hope Speech’ has had over 66,000 views through social media and YouTube. Overall the Almeida reached over 650,000 people through their social channels alone with 60% of the conversation online about the project taking place outside the UK.

Figures of Speech is conceived by Rupert Goold and directed by Anthony Almeida. It is the Almeida’s third major digital theatre event, following day-long durational readings of The Iliad and The Odyssey in 2015, which inspired audiences of over 50,000 people across the UK and around the world.

Anthony Almeida is currently the Link Artist of the Royal Opera House. In 2015 he was the Resident Director at the Almeida where his work as associate director included The OdysseyThe IliadOresteia (also West End); and Game.​

Rupert Goold is the Almeida’s Artistic Director where he has previously directed Ink (now running in the West End), Richard III (which was broadcast live to cinemas around the world in July 2016), MedeaThe Merchant of Venice, King Charles III (which transferred to West End and Broadway) and American Psycho (opened on Broadway in April 2016). His new production of Mike Bartlett’s Albion opens in October.  He was Artistic Director of Headlong from 2005 until 2013 where his work included The EffectENRON, Earthquakes in London and Decade. Other theatre credits include Made in Dagenham in the West End; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida; Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre, in the West End and on Broadway; and No Man’s Land at The Gate, Dublin and in the West End. He has twice been the recipient of the Laurence Olivier, Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Best Director. He was Associate Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company from 2009 to 2012 and was Artistic Director of Northampton Theatres from 2002 to 2005. On film he directed the BAFTA nominated Richard II, part of The Hollow Crown, and Macbeth for the BBC, featureTrue Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill, and a television adaptation of his production of Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III for BBC Two. Rupert was awarded a CBE for services to drama in the 2017 New Year’s Honours.

Figures of Speech has been made possible by the generous support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and a number of individual supporters.

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Simon Stephens interview: “There is something about bringing Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle to London which means a lot to me. A lot of my plays are carved out of a love for this city.”

Multi-award-winning playwright Simon Stephens is a pale giant, dressed today in dark blue jeans, a maroon shirt and a charcoal grey jacket. He listens and laughs a lot.


Simon Stephens © Alex Rumford

We’re sitting upstairs in a quiet corner of Black’s, a members’ club in London. The setting is intimate and our talk about his new play, Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle is too. The blurb for the show reads: ‘When two strangers meet by chance amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station; their lives change forever’. The play receives its UK premiere at Wyndham’s next month and tells the story of two strangers who strike up an unlikely relationship. It stars Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham, and reunites the production team behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, with Stephens, Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie. “Ken and Ann-Marie have a very complimentary energy that’s absolutely perfect for this play. Ken has such earth and a stillness and Ann-Marie has an edge and desire. The two of them dance around one another and it’s kind of exquisite,” he says.

The play is directed by Marianne Elliott and is the inaugural show for Elliott & Harper Productions, the company she has set up with director Chris Harper. Elliott’s many credits include Curious Incident (adapted for the stage by Stephens), War Horse and Angels in America. “I hope it sells – for them,” says Stephens, “I don’t want them to be exposed to anything. I really love them. If I’m anxious about anything, I’m anxious about the people of that calibre enjoying the success that they deserve.”


Is he nervous? “I’m really happy. I’m not nervous. Because the play has been done before in New York,” Stephens replies. “When a play is being done for the first time your main fear is that it is shit. I kind of know that it’s not shit. It’s not a shit play. There is something about bringing Heisenberg to London which means a lot to me. A lot of my plays are carved out of a love for this city.”

We talk about his friendship with Marianne and I get a clear sense of how and why they work so well together (Simon is Godfather to her daughter and it was some time into working together that she and Stephens discovered that they were both from Stockport and that they used to get the same bus to their schools.)


Simon Stephens and Marianne Elliott © Alex Rumford

“She’s brilliant because she’s brilliant – we have a brilliant relationship because of some deep psychic connection,” he says. “Above all of those things, she’s the hardest-working director I know.” Hard-working in a different way, he explains, from Ivo van Hove and Sean Holmes, say, who run theatres or do show after show, back-to-back in Paris or on Broadway. “Marianne refuses to go back-to-back with shows. Stephens continues. “At a time when everyone wants her, she says no to so many jobs because she needs the preparation time. I don’t know any director who prepares more than her. Heisenberg is an hour and fifteen two-hander and she has six weeks preparing it so that when she talks to the cast at the beginning of rehearsals, she speaks with more depth about the play than I have. What she’ll bring is the sense of its existential depth.”

He’s on a roll about his peers. “I’m so fucking fortunate, Carl. I’ve been so fortunate with the collaborators that I’ve worked with. Really lucky,” he says, thinking. “To work with Sean Holmes again and again, a substantial ten-year relationship. A fifteen-year relationship with Sarah Frankcom as well as the rockstar directors like Katie Mitchell, Ivo van Hove and Sebastian Nübling… It’s completely thrilling.”

There’s nothing smug about the way Simon Stephens says that, just a thankful recognition that he has done incredibly well.

I say I think his writing is often desolate but never without heart. In these uncertain times, how important is optimism? “I think Heisenberg is infused with the possibility of optimism and I think that is important. The only response to a world in peril is to be optimistic – I think pessimism is the last resort of the privileged,” he says, tucking into his artichoke soup.

“There is a difference between optimism and naivety – between optimism and jolliness. Real optimism has to consider real peril, real despair, real fear and real isolation. To deny those is just naïve but it’s about acknowledging those and finding the determination to persist.”

Rather brilliantly, there are 30,000 tickets for Heisenberg available for under £20. Delivering work to audiences at an affordable price is important to Stephens. “I’ve been a teacher all my life,” he nods. “There is nothing more important to me than the notion that theatre is not an elitist art form but that it is a democratic art form. You can make it cheaper than a lot of cinemas. You can make it cheaper than a football match. This is like watching a Champion League Football match at the cost of watching a match in the Ryman Conference.”

Heisenberg isn’t the only play keeping him occupied. Stephens’ adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull opens at the Lyric Hammersmith the day after and he has come from rehearsals to meet me. “I’m more nervous, weirdly, about The Seagull,” he admits. “I really like writing versions – it’s thrilling for me. It’s simple, it doesn’t take a massive amount of time and it’s different from play to play to play. 10 years ago, when I was working on Harper Regan and Lesley Sharp asked me to write a version of The Seagull, I knew I wasn’t able to at that time in my career. Because in my opinion, Chekhov is the best writer in the history of the world. For me, he is my tower. Do you know the Leonard Cohen song ‘Tower of Song’?” he asks.

I tell him I don’t.

“It’s a really beautiful, beautiful song. In it Cohen sings about the Tower of Song – a tower that all songwriters live in and there’s a beautiful line about Hank Williams.” Stephens quotes: “‘I said to Hank Williams: “How lonely does it get?” Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet. But I hear him laughing all night long. Oh, a hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song’.”


He continues, “I think writers position themselves at the foot of towers and they are very specific about which towers they position themselves at the foot of. I’m sitting on ground floor of Chekhov’s Tower and he’s a hundred floors above me, laughing all night long,”

It would be easy to pin him down as a tortured artist. How does he manage ego? “I find it really confusing because there’s part of me that still thinks I’m desperately trying to hack away, trying to get it right. As I look at my career now, objectively – if I separate myself from the experience of my career – I think you’d look at it and say that it is probably the career of a successful playwright. But I don’t experience myself as being a successful playwright,” he admits, modestly.

“I think the only thing you can do is, you stay present tense and concern yourself with the work and just get the work right. This is not just for successful playwrights, I think it’s true of all playwrights,” he continues. “I think it’s actually more perilous for writers at the start of their career because they are so worried about career that they can stop worrying about the work. I can’t change anything… It took me about 10 years to get over the notion of linear improvement. All I really want to do is write a play that is different to the last one. If ever it comes close to me taking myself too seriously then my children and my wife will just take the piss out of me – so brilliantly and precisely that it’s just impossible.”

I shift the conversation to critics, specifically, Michael Billington, who we both agree gets a lot of stick from the blogosphere. “If you’re working in theatre and you can’t distinguish between Michael Billington and Quentin Letts say- or Michael Billington and Dominic Cavendish, then you’re a fucking idiot,” he says, smiling. “If you can’t acknowledge that Michael Billington is one of the most consistently thoughtful, economic, searching, knowledgeable and serious writers about theatre.”

Stephens is Artistic Associate at the Lyric Theatre and Associate Playwright at the Royal Court. Does he think there are issues with the way new work is being commissioned that need addressing in order for the next generation of playwrights to break through? “I think there are perhaps some structural issues. But the structural issues are really complicated,” he says.

“I’m old enough to remember the year 2000 and the early years of the Blair government – and the remarkable energy for the arts that that government had and the extraordinary investment that that government brought about,” he explains. “I forget the name of the report in 2000 celebrating the agency of new writing and instigating a cash injection into new writing. But within five or ten years there were more playwrights than there had ever been and they were funded and supported. There new writing groups and young writing schemes all over the country. Eight years later there was an economic collapse that we’re still reeling from and the consequences of that is a massive withdrawal of money from the arts.”

“So, we have this situation where there are four times as many playwrights and less money to inject into the productions of their plays. That’s really tricky for the well-intentioned artistic directors who have to let people down. They will, and have rejected major significant playwrights and that’s an ongoing thing. I don’t know what to do about it because we are unfortunately not governed by a government that believes in the arts. The nature of Conservatism is that it has an impulse to conserve and the one thing the arts are not interested in ever – or should never be interested in –  is conserving,” says Stephens.

Julian Fellowes is the only playwright in the world who has any vested interest in things staying the way that they are and that’s why he is a…”

Just in time his phone beeps. “That’s my timer,” he sighs. “I need to be thinking about making a move.” Another rehearsal to get to?

No, he laughs, and heads off down Dean Street to pick up his daughter from school.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle runs at Wyndham’s Theatre from 9 October to 6 January, with previews from 3 October.

The Seagull will run at the Lyric Hammersmith from 10 October to 4 November, with previews from 3 October.

Dates confirmed for World Premiere of Tina, public booking opens 22 September 2017

Tina Turner
Tina Turner

Tina Turner

Stage Entertainment  today confirmed that TINA, a new musical based on the life of legendary artist Tina Turner, will open at the Aldwych Theatre in April 2018.  Performances will begin on 21 March 2018 with press night on 17 April 2018.  TINA is initially booking to16 June 2018.

Tickets are released for public sale at 10am on 22 September 2017 with priority booking from 10am on 15 September 2017.

Tina Turner said:  “I am so excited to be bringing my musical to the West End! London is a place that means so much to me and had such a big impact on my music and my life.  Returning now to tell my full story, in the city I love, feels like an important chapter and is truly exciting.”

 Written by Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, with choreography by Anthony van Laast, set and costume designs are by Mark Thompson, musical supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck, lighting by Bruno Poet sound by Nevin Steinberg and orchestrations by Ethan Popp.  Casting for TINA will be announced in due course.

From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her transformation into the global Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner didn’t just break the rules, she rewrote them. This new stage musical, presented in association with Tina Turner herself, reveals the untold story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race. 

 With a career that has spanned more than half a century, the legendary rock performer Tina Turner is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.  She first rose to fame in the 1960s partnering with her then-husband Ike Turner, achieving great acclaim for their live performances and catalogue of hits.  Later, Turner enjoyed an international solo career with her 1984 album Private Dancer earning her widespread recognition and numerous awards, including three Grammys.  She went on to deliver more chart-topping albums and hits, receiving a further eight Grammy Awards and reportedly selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history. The revered singer was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and has often been voted as one of the most successful female Rock ‘n’ Roll artists of all time.

 Katori Hall is a writer and performer from Memphis, Tennessee.  In 2016, her play Children of Killers was performed as part of the National Theatre’s Connections Festival.  Her play The Mountaintop, premiering at Theatre503 in 2009, received a transfer to Trafalgar Studios and became the winner of the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play, and following the West End run the play opened on Broadway in October 2011 starring Samuel L Jackson and Angela Bassett.  Hall’s other writing includes the award-winning Hurt Village currently in development for a feature film, Hoodoo Love,RemembranceSaturday Night/Sunday MorningWHADDABLOODCLOT!!!Our Lady of KibehoPussy Valley and The Blood Quilt.  Earlier this month Hall was named Artistic Director of the Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis.

Phyllida Lloyd returns to the West End where she has previously directed the world premiere of MAMMA MIA!, currently still running in London after 18 years.  Her production subsequently opened on Broadway and worldwide becoming a global phenomenon before she directed a film version for Universal Pictures.  More recently she has directed a Shakespeare Trilogy for the Donmar at King’s Cross – Henry IVJulius Caesar and The Tempest, all of which were also seen in New York where she has previously directed Taming of the Shrew at the Public Theatre and Josephine and I at Joe’s Pub at The Public, a transfer from The Bush.  Previously for the Donmar Warehouse she directed Mary Stuart which transferred to the Apollo Theatre and then Broadway, The Threepenny Opera and Boston Marriage.  She directed Six Degrees of Separation, Hysteria and Wild East all for the Royal Court, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with Fiona Shaw at the Old Vic Tunnels, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Epidaurus, The Way of the World, Pericles, What the Butler Saw, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Duchess of Malfi all for the National Theatre, Artists and Admirers and The Virtuoso for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Her other film credits include The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep in the role of Margaret Thatcher, and Gloriana.  Lloyd has directed many productions for the Royal Opera House and English National Opera and as well as winning multiple awards for her work, in 2012 she was awarded a CBE.

Anthony van Laast’s credits include Sister Act, Hair and Side Show as well as Disney’s recent film Beauty and the Beast.  Mark Thompson’s extensive design credits include Art, Bombay Dreams, One Man Two Guvnors and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Nicholas Skilbeck’s credits include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Gypsy and Follies at the National Theatre.  Bruno Poet has worked with the National Theatre on multiple productions including Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Treasure Island andFrankenstein. His most recent credit was with Akhnaten with the Los Angeles Opera.  Nevin Steinberghas worked on some of the biggest shows currently on Broadway including Dear Evan Hansen andHamilton, with his most recent theatre credit being Bandstand.   Ethan Popp is currently serving as Music Supervisor and Arranger to the West End production of Motown The Musical and is Music Supervisor for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock – The Musical on Broadway.

Thompson, van Laast and Skilbeck all collaborated with Lloyd on the world premiere of her production of MAMMA MIA!

TINA is produced by Stage EntertainmentJoop van den Ende and Tali Pelman, in association with Tina Turner.


Theatre:                           Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DF

Dates:                              initial booking period 21 March – 16 June 2018

Press Night:                       17 April 2018 at 7pm

Performances:                   Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm

Nb first midweek matinee 12 April 2017

Box Office:                         0845 200 7981

Website:                           www.tinathemusical.com

Facebook:                         TinaTheMusical

Twitter:                            TinaTheMusical

Nuffield Southampton Theatre’s production of Fantastic Mr Fox nominated for Two UK Theatre Awards

Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox. 

Nuffield Southampton Theatres celebrates their nominations for two awards in the UK Theatre Awards 2017. The brand-new adaptation of Roald Dahls Fantastic Mr Fox, in a co-production with Curve Leicester and in association with Lyric Hammersmith, has been nominated for a UK Theatre Award in the Best Show for Children and Young Theatre category and the company has been nominated for The Renee Stepham Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre.

On the nominations Sam Hodges, director of Nuffield Southampton Theatre, said Fantastic Mr Fox was a monumental labour of love for a brilliant team of creatives, actors and producers, making over 27,000 children up and down the country very happy. It was also an important moment for NST in terms of our growth and ambition and it feels very special to have been nominated for these two awards.”

Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said “We’re incredibly pleased to receive this nomination for Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Everyone at Curve is proud of the success of this production and this recognition is a testament to the strength of our co-producing relationships which enabled us to engage over 635,000 people on tour last year.”

The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide Awards to honour and celebrate outstanding achievements in regional theatre throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The awards ceremony will take place at Guildhall on the 15 October and will be hosted by Sharon D Clarke.

Nominated as the flagship production for Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve in association with Lyric Hammersmith produced the world premiere musical adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox, adapted by Sam Holcroft, with music by Arthur Darvill and lyrics by Al Muriel and Darren Clark. The production was directed by Maria Aberg and designed by Tom Scutt. The show opened in Southampton in November 2016 before running at Lyric Hammersmith in January and February 2017, touring the UK and Middle East from February to July 2017, and returning for a summer run at Lyric this summer.